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After a successful college career where she was named 4x All American in the 800m and the 1000m runs and a National Champion in the 1000m, her future was looking bright. However, a number of major life events - including cancer, an autoimmune disorder, a horrific car accident, and losing two of the most influential people in her life in quick succession - kept her from running consistently.
Through all of the hardships, challenges, and setbacks, Ashley found the courage to persevere. She continues to pursue her goals and running today, even if they look different than what she originally planned. Ashley shares more of her story and how you, too, can overcome obstacles, no matter their size...
One thing I know is that you cannot stop living life even though all you want to do is lay down and give up. I wondered how was it that I was finally racing at my peak performance just to find out I have Thyroid cancer and Graves Disease. One day, while holding my daughter, I told myself, “How can I teach her to never give up in life, if she sees her mother giving up on her dreams and goals in life?” So, I got up, put on my shoes and forced myself to start training again.
Physically you might be able to push yourself, but the real battle is mentally. You have to keep reminding yourself that you are better than your bad days.
I battled back from a mental breakdown in 2011 when my beloved Godmother and Grandfather both passed away, just 4 weeks apart from one another. I remember many a day I silently cried in the shower so my daughter wouldn't find out how bad life was for me at that time. After I lost them, I thought I would never find the will to race again. They were a huge part of my drive to be the best in everything I did. They never let me be too hard on myself and always told me my ticket to do whatever I wanted to in life was, "To never give up on me.” Once they were gone, I could not find that motivation again.
Then I had my daughter Morgan. When she was 2 years old, I started training again. I almost gave up because it was so hard to break a 13 minute mile at first. But I kept practicing, and training my body to remember who it once was. And in 2014, I won USATF Club Nations 400m hurdles.
A car accident in 2017 took me out of the running game for almost 2 years. I honestly thought I would never race another 5k again. But in 2019 I ran the Detroit Free Press Supreme Challenge, where I raced the One Mile, a 5k, then the Full International Marathon the next day. Even though I am not at the level I used to be, I am grateful for the baby steps that I can take during each race.
I am beyond fortunate to have a village of people to support me and help me on my road to recovery. From family and friends, to my doctors and physical therapist, I thank them all for their hard work with me. I know I could not do the things I am capable of without their encouragement, support and time. I've also been blessed to have met so many amazing runners on my journey. Each and every one of them has in inspiring story of their own that they would share with me. I would use that energy to keep pushing myself forward to never give up.